Construction has Begun on Bayside Drive Renovation at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Laguna-Madre-shoreline-from-Plover-Point

Los Fresnos, TX – On June 7, the Federal Highway Administration began construction on the refuge’s Bayside Drive to install wildlife underpasses and widen the road, in preparation for reopening the tour route to private vehicles. The popular hiking and biking route along the Laguna Madre will be temporarily closed to all visitor uses, beginning June 7, while construction takes place. It is anticipated to be completed in early 2019.

Bayside Drive was closed to private vehicles in November of 2013, after two endangered ocelots were struck and killed by vehicles on the drive in 2009 and 2010. GPS data collected from tracking collars after the incidents showed that ocelots were crossing Bayside Drive up to 100 times per month. The small ocelot population could not withstand another preventable loss. The refuge manager closed the road to private vehicles until a solution could be found. Bayside Drive has remained open for walking and biking and the refuge has offered guided Habitat Tours by bus or tram.

With the dual goals of protecting wildlife and allowing the public to enjoy and learn about nature, the refuge worked with the Federal Highway Administration to develop a plan that would allow public vehicles back on Bayside Drive, while minimizing the danger to wildlife. A raised section of road will be installed in prime ocelot habitat, which will contain two wildlife underpasses (similar to box culverts) so that ocelots and other wildlife can move freely within their home ranges without having to cross the road surface. Parts of the drive that formerly made a loop and have particularly high quality ocelot habitat will remain closed to vehicles, thus the remainder of the drive will be widened to allow for two way traffic. To further avoid ocelot habitat, the entrance to the drive will be relocated to FM106, just south of the intersection with Buena Vista Road.

Once construction is completed, the refuge plans to reopen the Bayside Drive to hiking and biking, and to private vehicles on a limited basis. The refuge offers over 40 miles of hiking and biking trails in addition to the Bayside Drive, and encourages the public to continue visiting while construction takes place.

In addition to the reconstruction of Bayside Drive, the contractor will resurface Ocelot Road, the visitor center, and refuge office parking lots.

Contact the visitor center at 956-748-3607 ext. 111 for more information or visit the refuge’s website www.fws.gov/refuge/laguna_atascosa.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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